BIRKENHEAD MARKET: Vote to move the site has been delayed
A crunch vote on plans to move Birkenhead Market to a temporary site has been delayed after a backlash from traders.
In recent months, traders have been angry with Wirral Council, which runs Birkenhead Market, saying the plan to move it temporarily to St Werburghs Square risks ending the market and its history, which began in 1835.
The move to St Werburghs Square is set to happen early next year and run for at least three years until a new permanent market is built.
The main worries among traders are that the new stalls will not be big enough, there are not enough of them and more than half are outside and may not draw customers in outside of the summer months.
With 21 stalls provided inside and 24 outside, many fear this will push long-time stall owners out of the market.
Given these concerns it is understood that a key committee vote on the move to St Werburghs Square has been put back from June 8 to September, it is understood.
Discussing the St Werburghs Square plan, Andrew Porter, who runs the Quickprint and Accessories stall at Birkenhead Market, said: “There’s too many ifs and buts about it.
“They haven’t come back to us with a price for these gazebos [in which the outdoor stalls will be located].
“These gazebos have to be put up and taken down everyday, we’ll have to bring the stock up everyday.”
Mr Porter was also annoyed that traders were not entitled to a stall under the plan.
He said: “I’ve been here for 10 years and i’ve got to put a case over to see if i’m viable to go into the temporary market, it should be a case of you have a stall if you want it.”
The lack of space in the outdoor stalls was also a problem for Mr Porter, he thought there would not be enough space to display all his items clearly.
He added: “80% of traders will walk if this goes ahead and the legacy of the council will be to basically get rid of the market which has been going since 1835.”
Janet French, who runs a watch shop at Birkenhead Market with her husband Paul French, said: “It’s upsetting me, this is the only job we ever had.
“I’ve been on the market since 1986, this is what we’ve always done. We pay just shy of £245 per week for the stall.
“It’s cheaper for me to get a job, but I like the market, it’s nice that people don’t have to walk in, they can just walk past and be drawn in.”
She felt St Werburghs Square was not suitable for the needs of her stall.
Ms French added: “There’s nothing in there that would suit me, I wish I could set up everyday but it’s impossible.
“There’s too much stuff, we’d have to carry loads of stock. I do feel strongly that we’d have to consider somewhere else and it’s breaking my heart.”
Tom Roberts has been running Moneysworth butchers at the market for 39 years. He agreed that the size of the new stalls was a problem.
However, he added: “If that is the only option, we are prepared to go there.
“I’m not that happy with the shop size, but if it’s the only option we have i’m happy to have a job.”
Speaking to the ECHO, Green Party councillor Pat Cleary, said: “I feel like the council has listened to Green ward councillors and their representations made on behalf of traders.”
The Birkenhead and Tranmere councillor added: “There needs to be a dual offer, with the current solution which suits food retailers and a solution to keep as many non-food traders together in one place.
“We want the council to investigate that possibility.”
Representing the same ward Cllr Steve Hayes, who sits with the Independent group on Wirral Council, said: “While the current proposal is a smallish site and may prove unsuitable for many traders due to the style and size of the business they currently run, I still hope there will be a way of finding alternatives for those who may not feel it is not suitable for them so that they can carry on trading.
“It must be realised that it is a temporary site and the new main market to be built will be a better proposition for many more traders.”
Mick Whitley, Labour MP for Birkenhead, said: “My role, as the MP, is to make sure that the traders’ voice is heard by the people making the decisions and the traders’ views have real influence on the outcome.
“Over the next period I aim to meet regularly with the relevant parties to discuss a range of options that may be able to meet the traders’ concerns.
“All the options raised regarding alternative sites, possible shop space and accommodating all traders who want to stay in business should be on the table.
“The traders have served Birkenhead for many years and I believe that Birkenhead owes all of them a fair deal going forward.”
A spokesperson for Wirral Council said: “Council officers and local councillors met recently with traders to discuss concerns about the proposals for the temporary relocation of Birkenhead Market and further examine the options available.
“A report due to be taken to Economy, Regeneration and Development Committee next week about the temporary relocation of Birkenhead Market has been postponed to allow this additional work to take place.
“The relocation of the Market is due to be for the period when a new market is being built and the council’s aim has always been to ensure businesses within the Market have continuity of trading while the redevelopment takes place.
“The success and future viability of Birkenhead Market is a crucial element of the council’s ambitions for the large-scale regeneration of the town, a significant part of which is already underway within the town centre.
“It is understood some traders have concerns about their businesses and the council has made it clear that the authority will continue to work closely with Birkenhead Market traders and do whatever we can to address their worries to ensure Birkenhead Market remains at the heart of the town centre’s retail offer.”
Words: George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter
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